Lately, there has been a surge of interest in adopting Blockchain into the IoT. Let’s try to understand why, and what the key features of Blockchain-based IoT systems are.
The IoT has been evolving since its beginning in home automation, smart lights, smart thermostats, and is now tackling complex industrial challenges by solving real-world problems. In order to ensure high levels of security, distributed ledger systems are put in the communication network between machines. This is where Blockchain technology comes into the picture.
It’s true that you can now generate, sign, and send transactions from inside a microcontroller. This means that any device that’s able to run cryptography algorithms can avoid centralized networks and take advantage of smart contracts.
Once you start talking about Blockchain, everyone’s mind immediately jumps to Bitcoin. But, except for cryptocurrency, Blockchain is also notorious for being computationally demanding which is not very suitable for IoT. So, how has this changed today?
The difference is that lightweight Blockchain based architectures are becoming increasingly available for today’s Internet of Things projects and applications.
Traditionally, Blockchain uses POW (Proof-of-Work) as one of its mechanisms necessary to authenticate a block. A POW is a consensus algorithm, and Bitcoin pioneered its use. Now, the problem of using POW in IoT projects is that a lot of resources are needed to solve one, and it has a long latency to transaction confirmations. Even though POW is not required to be executed on IoT devices, it is needed to maintain the security of the entire Blockchain.
More and more experts are proposing that POW should be eliminated from Blockchain systems that are designed for IoT.
Business Advantages of Blockchain in IoT and application examples
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of Blockchain based IoT projects and their applications:
- Decentralized system: no single point of failure and data redundancy.
- Authenticity/Notarization: every transaction is signed and certifies that the contained data has originated from that device only at that precise moment in time.
- Auditability: since blockchain data are immutable, all the history of each device can be authenticated.
Right now, Blockchain technology is being used in IoT applications for asset tracking, agriculture, food safety, healthcare, smart home, automotive, luxury good authentication, and more. If we take a look at some examples, it’s easy to see what the benefits of a Blockchain-based IoT system are.
When you add Blockchain to smart agriculture you immediately get the benefit of more transparency and trust within the entire supply chain – from the farm, to the grocery store, and, eventually, the customer’s kitchen table.
All the information that the sensors have collected in the field is stored safely on the Blockchain network. It can not be modified, or tampered with. Everyone can see what the crops were like at each stage of growth and cultivation. Furthermore, the produced food can be tracked during transportation, in the warehouse, etc.
Supply Chain monitoring:
In supply chain monitoring, Blockchain can provide greater transparency and trust. Considering that the supply chain is the foundation of all manufacturing, Blockchain technology can revolutionize all manufacturing processes just by tracking suppliers and procurement within the company.
Monitoring environmental conditions of shipments:
The combination of Blockchain and IoT can solve the trust issues companies have with industrial IoT. A superb example of this is Zerynth’s Blockchain-based tracking system for shipments. With this, suppliers can trust a smart contract to store the data from shipments; and, the contract, itself, can adjust the value of the transported asset based on handling conditions.
Of course, this can be customized to suit any condition that the system requires – travel time spent, temperature, humidity, fall detection, etc.
The system is based on Zerynth’s IoT platform including the 4ZeroBox and the Zerynth Device Manager:
- 4ZeroBox is used to capture data from sensors and to generate, sign, and send transactions to Ethereum Smart Contracts.
- Zerynth Device Manager is used to track shipments, plot sensor reading history, and allow the customer to pay the final shipping price.
Major food retail companies are already using Blockchain technology. Carrefour has been using a Blockchain-based product tracking system for a couple of years now. In fact, it was the first operational food blockchain in Europe.
But, this isn’t just happening in Europe. In the US, Walmart has been working with IBM on a Blockchain solution that is also designed to ensure food safety, and add more transparency to the supply process.
Security advantages for adopting Blockchain in IoT
The Internet of Things is one of the main disruptive technologies of the 21st century. Networks of different sensors, which are getting cheaper by the day, and interconnected objects are all around us. This implies the amount of data we are collecting grows every second. Unfortunately, IoT devices often have security vulnerabilities that make them an easy target for cyber attacks.
One example of this vulnerability is DDoS (distributed-Denial-of-Service) attacks. DDoS attacks work like this – the targeted system is flooded with large amounts of data requests until it’s overwhelmed with more traffic than it can accommodate. The goal during a DDoS is to make the server inoperable and cease to function. Botnets, which are vast networks of computers, are often used to wage DDoS attacks.
Another problem is that many IoT security frameworks are highly centralized which is not suited for IoT. Frameworks like this are very difficult to scale. Also, with this centralized type of traffic, there is a single point of failure.
With IoT devices being such a vital part of our daily lives, it’s imperative that we invest in stronger levels of security. Thankfully, Blockchain can address most of these security issues.
Blockchain stores the processed data in chronological order, in memory files that can not be tampered with, and shares the information with all users. The data is stored in a public ledger (that can not be modified) and is available to all users equally.
In this way it creates trust and eliminates the need for a third party that ensures the security of the data. It is a decentralized system built on transparency and equality.
Of course, there are public and private Blockchain networks, and companies and organizations can choose which ones they would like to use based on their needs.
The future will bring more Blockchain-based IoT solutions, especially in supply chain areas, and asset tracking. Whether you are already planning to use it for your company or not, Blockchain is going to change the world.
Trust is the main, and most obvious benefit of Blockchain technology, not only in the IoT, but everywhere. After all, trust is the foundation of any business relationship.